Meet the Pa. Bernie Delegate Who Almost Fought Sean Hannity at Wawa
I spent some time this past week sporadically trying to talk to delegates to the Democratic National Convention, just to get a sense of how they were getting along with each other and how they were enjoying the city. I found one guy on Twitter who was a Bernie Sanders delegate from Lancaster and sent him a message. His name is Jonathan Paul Fox. He grew up in Boston, and has been involved in Democratic politics in Pennsylvania for the last 12 years. He calls himself a democratic socialist, like Sanders.
On Thursday I met him at the Double Tree Hotel, where the Pa. delegation was staying, and we talked at the bar for 15 minutes.
Only after I’d stopped recording did he mention that he’d almost gotten into a fight with Fox News host Sean Hannity at Wawa on Broad Street a few nights before. Fox said he saw Hannity in there and tapped him on the shoulder and asked if he could have his good name back, joking that Hannity’s employer had sullied it. It was all in good fun, he said, but Hannity didn’t like it.
LIE. One customer who seemed to be having a really rough night met me and my bodyguards, he shut up very fast. Lol https://t.co/U3w39t0geV
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) July 26, 2016
Then he pulled up a story about the incident from Lancaster Online on his iPad, handed it to me, and said, “Read on, brother.”
It’s possible to imagine that Fox had a little buzz going when the incident occurred, as Hannity implies. But it’s pretty difficult to imagine he was being confrontational. He seems like an easygoing guy. Here’s what we talked about. It’s been edited for length and clarity.
How did you become a delegate?
It’s pretty arcane. At a certain point, if you’re at all connected with either of these major political parties you’ll become aware that it’s time to apply to be one. I know as far as Senator Sanders, you could apply online through his website. So that’s how I did it. I happened to have been involved in state politics for 12 years, so fortunately for me, my name rang a bell with the people vetting delegates.
Have you been involved with the Democratic Party for a while?
For both the good and the bad. I was on the state committee for a four-year term … After four years a friend and fellow political activist took over, he ran instead, but at the end of my term and the beginning of his term, we started a progressive caucus within the state committee, so that was a great accomplishment. That was 2011.
All the candidates came [to Lancaster] in ’08, and I supported Barack Obama very early on.
And you were a Sanders delegate this year. Do you have any opposition to Clinton as a candidate?
No. I am an advocate for Bernie Sanders. I grew up in New England. I have known him as first Mayor Sanders, the socialist mayor of one of my favorite towns, Burlington, and followed his career in the Congress and in the Senate.
Keystone Progress is the group I do my business with. I find that more effective than working on the state committee for numerous reasons. We sponsor a progressive summit of statewide Democrats once a year in Harrisburg. Bernie Sanders came as our keynote speaker in 2015 in March. Not everybody knew of him. … He came to Harrisburg, spoke, really fired up the crowd.
Is there a strong Bernie-or-Bust contingent in the Pa. delegation?
Let me backtrack a little. Three years before the primary, we had Occupy Lancaster. The people and the kids I spoke with, as I was the liaison between the police and the Occupy people, wanted nothing to do with our political process. And sometimes you’ve got to say, can you blame them? Because of what it’s become.
But I’ve always believed in participatory politics. As the famous born-in-Boston Philadelphian Ben Franklin said, it’s pretty bad but it’s the best one we’ve got, democracy.
So I’ve always encouraged people, if you don’t like the system, then work within it to change it. I was there then and I’m still there now. … Two nights ago I witnessed Hillary Clinton win on a roll call vote. So where are we going from there?
I would never lecture you on where your conscience takes you. If you want to entertain a conversation, I’m willing to offer you my take on it, but I will never, ever castigate you for voting what you believe in.
What do you think of the convention? Is it getting people excited to participate?
Every once in a while, we witness a very inspirational speech. I think Cory Booker brought it this year … I wanted to hear Jane Sanders. I wanted to hear Nina Turner. Secondhand I heard it’s because she wouldn’t give them a copy of her remarks and didn’t promise anything.
Does it make you feel better about Clinton as a candidate, or does it not really change the way you feel about her?
I always respected her, admired her accomplishments. Her policies are not always what I believe in. Compare and contrast Bernie Sanders’ total list of policy positions with hers, and it’s remarkable. Bernie’s channeling me or I’m channeling Bernie and a lot of other people. These are the issues that matter. Hillary’s history as a children’s justice advocate and her support of women’s rights throughout the world, the fact that she’s now our nominee, of course you have to give her her propers.
I trust that if we stay within the party and do our best to support her election that the consequence will be that we’ll be in the room, that we’ll be in the tent instead of being outside. Now, whether that’s going to occur … I can give you my experience through the eight years of Obama’s administration. For the first three years, they didn’t really give us the time of day. Until election time came around, the primaries, all of a sudden we’re getting invited to the White House and shit. All of a sudden the progressives matter.
The jury is still out on whether we’re going to stay the course or whether we’re going to tack back to the middle. There are two major parties. I have voted third party in the past … As I said earlier, I encourage everybody to vote their conscience and don’t vote the lesser of two evils if that’s what you consider this to be. But I would encourage you to compare and contrast the two major candidates and ask you to find a way, possibly, to choose one of them. But if not, we’re still good.
Follow @jaredbrey on Twitter.